The Latvian installation and video artist Krišs Salmanis (1977) has had several solo shows in Latvia and Germany, and has taken part in more than 60 group shows throughout the world. Salmanis' exhibition "The Lost Ones" (2009) earned him a spot as a finalist for the prestigious Latvian art award, the Purvītis Prize, at the start of 2011; in autumn of the same year, he was among three finalists for the international Henkel Art Award. His works are part of museum collections in Latvia and Estonia, and are included in the Central and Eastern European video-art archive Transitland.
I am a Rigan. I'm always mixing up street names and architect names; the city's history is something I newly discover every time I start to study it. But I know where kim? is, and I also know the fastest way to get to the Contemporary Art Center of Latvia, Alma gallery, and the art center at VEF. I rarely look around myself on my daily comings and goings. However, Riga even surprises those who are used to it.
The real Latvian Folksong Cabinet
Currently, it's still on view to the public, at the Academy of Sciences. It's best to call the Latvian Folklore Archive on the 15th floor (67228632) in advance, but sometimes you can get lucky by just showing up unannounced. Right next to the cabinet is a wooden box for French cigarette wrapping-papers. The "father" of the folksongs, Krišjānis Barons, was a heavy smoker and used the boxes for storing his catalog of folksongs. The little pieces of paper he used were made to fit the boxes; later, the cabinet was custom-made to accommodate the slips of paper.
The Jugendstil/Art Nouveau Museum
It's in a flat, where the architect Konstantīns Pēkšēns used to live at the beginning of the 20th century; he's one of the few who's name I remember, and I think I'd recognize his style. Once, before 2001 made it fashionable, I was very interested in Arab calligraphy. That's when I found out that one hundred years earlier, a similar interest was had by this architect, whose buildings often featured Moorish art motifs. I don't recall seeing anything Middle-eastern at this Albert Street museum, but it has a bunch of other sources of inspiration for those interested in setting up elegant, bourgeois flats.
The retro streetcar
It isn't driven by the man with the black beard and beret of my childhood anymore, but the experience is amazing nevertheless. If you miss getting off to see the wonderful establishments of Miera Street (bars and cake places, shops selling fashionably aged and simply fashionable things, night-life at the club Piens and great burger places in the neighborhood of the Valmiermuižas shop), then just keep going. Past Tabakas fabrika, where a new, creative district is taking shape, past the Great Cemetery (wherein lies buried our previously-mentioned "father of folksongs"), and across the Brasa Bridge. Do get off of the streetcar here, because cemeteries are important, and there are many of them here. You will have already read about the Brāļu kapi (Cemetery of Brothers), and the Mežakapi (Forest Cemetery) is also too great of a subject for such a short piece as this, which is just meant to while away your time. But behind these cemeteries, on the left side of Varoņu Street, is something that I noticed just recently - the 7 meter-high, granite Victory Column, now overgrown with weeds and grass. It was erected by merchants to honor the Russian tzar's victory over Napoleon, but now the almost-hundred-year-old great, big slab is just waiting for a better use. I think Riga could use some more seesaws.
The skate-park by Vairoga and Gaujas Streets
My latest find to bring me joy. It looks like instead of burning down the old sheds, the boys of the Čiekurkalns district like to take them apart and put them together into new, moving combinations.
Buying the ex-president's socks at Čiekurkalna Market
"All loyal citizens of this country will definitely want to purchase the same socks that, until recently, now-ex-President Zatlers wore! Buy socks here - from Mrs. Dusja! Cheap and prestigious!" A logical conclusion to a long walk. And right next door you have produce, scrap metal, and colorful characters galore.
Dear visitor to Riga - if possible, head on this, and other walks, together with a native. At first, your excitement about the sights might make him wonder, but after a while, he'll start to believe you. And when you part, with a pride long not felt, he just may think to himself: "I am a Rigan."
Keywords: Riga, Latvia